El Paso County Pinieries Open Space Rare Plant Assessment
CONPS 2015 Field Study
During the 2015 field season CONPS collaborated with Colorado Natural Heritage Program, Denver Botanic Gardens Colorado College and CONPS botanist members to conduct a thorough field assessment of prairie woodland relict rare plants on the Pineries Open Space in Black Forest. The 1000+ acre County Park was severely burned in the June 2013 Black Forest Fire. Recommendations in the 2014 updated Forest Management Plan are to clearcut about 78 percent of the previously forested area using salvage logging and mastication which creates severe ground dsiturbance.
The area is listed as a CNHP Potential Conservation Area and has a suite of disjunct tallgrass prairie woodland relict plants which are rare in Colorado. The Assessment determined the post-fire status of these species, and the report (in preparation) will recommend Best Management Practices to preserve habitat and populations.
A total of sixteen botanists spent 280 man-hours during two assessment events (May 15-16 and July 17-18, 2015) searching for, counting, photographing, and geotagging Heuchera richardsonii, Krigia biflora, Viola pedatifida, Oligoneuron album, Helianthrmum bicknelii, Liatris ligulistylus, and Penstemon gracilis in six tributaries of Upper Black Squirrel Creek as well as several areas in the Kiowa Creek watershed.
All six rare species present before the 2013 fire were confirmed in 2015. One species (Liatris ligulistylus) was expected, and confirmed, on the site as a result of the fieldwork this season. Of over 3900 individuals found, 83 percent were Heuchera richardsonii, which appears to be reproducing prolifically after the fire, despite additional disturbance from summer flooding.
A report is being prepared for El Paso County Parks by Judy von Ahlefeldt, Tass Kelso and Kent Timmerman, with GIS map preparation by Jill Handwerk and Bernadette Kuhn of CNHP. The report will be used by County Parks, and Palmer Land Trust for Park and Open Space Management.
I think we had a hugely successful project – we developed collaborative relationships, we have a good mechanism to promote, publicize and protect rare pants and conservation values, we added a lot of information to a minimally known CNHP Potential Conservation Area, the plants have recovered fabulously – especially the Heucheras (all 3200+ of them!), we confirmed an expected species (Liatris), we found all the others, we have an excellent record of biodiversity reality (photos, a grand collection of grasses and other native plants by DBG), we established a semi-quantitative geotagged baseline for the POS rare plants, and we all made new botany friends.
Judy von Ahlefeldt